Daughters of Simone Bohemian Bridal LairJan 30, 2020 11:00AM ● By Melissa Mendonca
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Dakota Lynn Photography and courtesy of Daughters of Simone
FOR ANY LITTLE GIRL who pores over the pictures of her parents’ wedding day, dreams can take root for the possibilities of her own future wedding. Images of dresses and bridesmaids, flowers and cake take hold in the imagination alongside the picture of an idealized spouse planting the perfect kiss.
For Brittany and Ashley Castanos, those images also inspired a bridal fashion design business that resonates with brides across the globe and more than 90,000 Instagram followers.
“We both have always been inspired by our parents’ wedding, and I think have fantasized about having something similar for our own,” says Brittany. “Their 1970s wedding took place in our grandparents’ backyard. Our mom wore a boho off-the-shoulder dress with a large, floppy, white-lace hat. Her long, blonde hair fell down at her shoulders. This is all I had ever envisioned a bride to look like, including myself.”
That look inspired a business eight years ago that brought the sisters from the doldrums of a down-turned economy, when Brittany began reconfiguring vintage dresses for resale as a creative outlet and side hustle to finance life in San Francisco, into intrepid entrepreneurs set on turning the bridal business on its head. It’s a tip of the hat to vintage styles of the 1970s with a modern philosophy of freedom and expression.
“It’s been nice to see a shift where women can dress in a way that really represents their personal fashion tastes rather than what they think they should look like,” says Brittany.
While the sisters inherited a free-wielding sense of creativity and exploration from their mother, an abstract artist, their incarnation as Daughters of Simone is inspired by French writer and feminist theorist Simone de Beauvoir, who once opined, “I wish that every human life might be pure, transparent freedom.”
The roots of Daughters of Simone sprouted in San Francisco, where the sisters once lived, but took root in their hometown of Fresno. In autumn 2019 they opened their flagship store in the Tower District, a renovated 1922 home now known as the Daughters of Simone Bohemian Bridal Lair. A partnership with Fig & Honey allows brides to try on dresses as an experience similar to a bridal shower, with friends, family, champagne and small bites as well as an extended fitting time. Open hours allow brides to come in without an appointment, and more intimate private fittings can be arranged.
The space is so impeccably appointed it’s been referred to as “an Instagrammer’s dream” and is available for event rental and photo shoots.
The company now has five bridal collections, including its latest, Come Hell or High Water.
The brand is truly international, with retail outlets in 15 states and as far away as New Zealand and Japan. Having home base in their hometown of Fresno, though, makes all the difference. “My sister and I grew up seeing our father, uncles and many male cousins running their own business in Fresno,” says Brittany. “So, even while we’ve lived in a multitude of different cities across the country, keeping our company in Fresno and eventually opening up our own flagship here was particularly meaningful for us.” She says they look forward to being an example of female entrepreneurship to their children.
The sisters describe themselves as hard-scrabble entrepreneurs who have taken turns supporting various aspects of the business, each taking part at various times in design, customer relations and development and marketing. They’ve both set flower arrangements and poured champagne for customers while dreaming up new designs and retail opportunities.
While the Daughters of Simone website and Instagram features models and customers wearing dresses in exotic beach and desert locales, the heart of the company is right here in the Central Valley. “We’re happy to rep our hometown,” says Brittany. •
Daughters of Simone Bohemian Bridal Lair
844 N. Van Ness, Fresno • (559) 343-3332
Find them on Facebook and Instagram
Melissa Mendonca is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.